Rolling Stone had a birthday last week — one freakin' thousand issues and still as fresh and relevant as it was on its first day on the planet, 9 November 1967. Yeah, she has a few wrinkles here and there, but she's remarkably well-preserved and can still hold her own with any magazine that came before or after her birth.
Sure, there were other music magazines before Rolling Stone — Crawdaddy for the hippie-oriented and the original Hit Parader, with its chord charts and lyric sheets, come to mind — but by and large, those magazines were beholden to the record labels and their content reflected that. Whatever else there was about rock & roll was pretty much teen fanzine fodder.
Rolling Stone changed all that, and then some. From the outset, her edict was rock & roll not only can change the world, but is changing the world, and you'd be well-advised to listen. That was a powerful message, a defiant proclamation, and one to which, through all the years and changes, the magazine has steadfastly adhered. And somewhere along the way, she went from being an almost underground newspaper to evolve into the cornerstone of modern journalism it is today.
Nobody writing about pop culture today can deny they were influenced by Rolling Stone, in fact, most of us would probably would not have been inspired to write at all had it not been for Jann Wenner and his cadre of guerilla journalists. Guys like Hunter S. Thompson vindicated our belief that the way we were being taught journalism was just, well, boring. He and others, such as Cameron Crowe, demonstrated that not only was it okay to immerse oneself in reportage, to become a character in the story, it was essential. I've not used the phrase "in my opinion" since; it seems a redundancy.
From its inception, Rolling Stone recognized the power of the image: that publicity still of John Lennon in How I Won the War was the reason I, a scrawny 14-year-old kid with delusions of rock stardom, bought that first issue. Those cover images kept me — and millions others — coming back again and again. Whether it was Annie Liebowitz reinventing the art of portraiture in her photos or Robert Grossman's brilliant political caricatures, those covers have, almost all of them, been snapshots of the moment. More, they stand as testaments of history.